Why? Because an M-Boat is a beautiful, powerful boat that can race well, cruise well, do passage-making well, and is a lot of fun to sail.
This section is a commentary, and will even be a bit personal at times. It is a very candid and straight forward statement of some of the reasons why a revived M-Class would serve everyone who came in contact with it well.
Clicking on any the links in the list below will take you to an expanded section discussing the concept described.
Reasons range from practical to aesthetic to the kind of use one wants to make of his/her boat, but here are some of the reasons:
- M-boats are classical racing yachts, for those who love that kind of boat
- M-boats are a proven class, with years of sailing behind them
- M-boats are powerful and fast
- M-Boats can handle a nice interior and maintain good performance
- M-boats are beautiful, as their lasting appeal attests
- Under the New Universal Rule of Measurement, the M-Class provides for fun design development, aggressive equipment and sail development, and yet contains heavy safeguards to maintain the competitive life of the hull itself
- The M-Class represents an excellent opportunity to return to a serious but friendly form of yacht racing, while using boats which are also capable of cruising and passage-making, so that they are a very versatile boat from which the owner can get a lot of use.
- A personal reason of my own
There are a lot of other reasons which could be listed as well, but let's take a closer look at some of the reasons above:
For most of us, this means a boat with enough power to carry its sail without 30 gorillas sitting on the weather rail, and it means a boat with an interior that it feels good to be in, and it means a boat with long overhanging ends and mild sheer line, resulting in a boat as graceful as it is powerful.
There are several kinds of boats that might meet these criteria, but the M-Class will meet them especially well. Unlike the smaller 12-Metre, the M-boat is large enough to handle nice accommodations well. To be fast and fun, a boat with enough displacement to be powerful must also be narrow, and unless the boat has a lot of length it will lack enough beam for a good interior. The 12-Metre suffers from this problem, but with over 14 feet of beam, the M-boat does not. Ironically, today's ultra lights also suffer from the problem of requiring a narrow beam, but they are hardly classical yachts in appearance and the interiors in them have to be pretty compromised anyway because of their light weight, and – lacking depth – headroom is a serious issue in an ultra-light as well.
There are other true "yacht" features available in this boat that aren't elsewhere. For example, the new construction rules will provide allowance for the weight of some form of wood deck, which is pretty much out of vogue on other types since it weighs too much and detracts from performance.
These are all the kinds of things we can control by reviving the Universal Rule and suiting it to a specific intent. None of this is possible by building to a rule already in operation, and controlled by an established rules committee.
The M-Class was created in the early 20th century, and reached its peak in the late 1920s and early 1930s. After that M-boats were made into ocean racers, and dominated West Coast ocean racing for years. These boats have proven themselves as buoy racers and distance racers, as powerful and seaworthy boats.
The racing qualities of the M-Class are equally well-proven. In fact, Clinton Crane -- who raced them during the great days in the late 1920s -- named the M-boat chapter in his book "Great Racing". M-boats have the large sail area needed to perform well in light wind, the power to be outstanding in a breeze, and -- with the New Universal Rule -- a sufficiently restrictive rule such that it is very hard to make one much faster than another, though it should be a lot of fun trying to.
An M-boat is considerably faster than a 12-Metre, and more powerful than most traditional size ocean racers. This is part of the joy of sailing a boat like this when racing, but also one of the conveniences of sailing it with less than a full crew. For those of us who disliked the tendency of an IOR type boat (IMS today?) to lay far over on its side in any kind of a breeze without its racing crew sitting on the weather rail, or equally disliked the tendency of those boats to hit a wave and stop instead of driving through, a classical racing yacht offers the answer. The M-Class just might be the epitome of such a boat.
One of the problems with any "sporty" boat is that it is narrow, and that makes it hard to put a nice interior in it. This is true whether the boat is relatively heavy, like an M or a 12-Metre, or it is relatively light, like a ULDB. The only solution is to make it long enough, which an M-boat is and the smaller classes are not.
But in a light-weight type, it is not only the size of the boat, but the weight of the interior structure which limits the kind of interior the owner can have. In the M-Class, we are dealing with a boat where interior structure weight is not nearly as large a component of the total weight. Consider the fact that a settee for 3 people is the same size on a light boat (say 30,000 lbs.) as on a heavier boat (say 96,000 lbs.). The settee has to be same size in either boat since people are the same size, so let's say it weighs 75 lbs. That 75 lbs. is 0.25% of the total weight of the light-weight boat, but only 0.08% of the weight of the heavier boat: less than one-third of the effect on the boat.
Originally we intended to have a system of fixed weights in the boat, where the owner could -- at his/her discretion -- choose to have an interior or not. If he/she opted not to, then fixed weights would be installed instead, so that there was little if any impact on performance relative to other M-boats. As time went on, though, it became apparent that the large classes were putting in nice accommodations. Clearly this seems to be what people want, and an M-boat can certainly handle the weight. While not spacious like a J-boat, they do have room to be a nice boat for a week of cruising through some interesting coast line or the like. On the "Arrangement Drawings" page there are drawings of a couple concepts we have developed for a nice short-cruising or coastal-cruising interior. It takes some creative arranging to make it all fit, but we hope you'll agree that they are nice arrangements.
The new measurement rule, as we propose it on this web site, specifies in very basic and simple terms what the interior must include. It also specifies that all appliances and fixtures must be "off the shelf", as we really don't want massive development projects aimed at making a galley sink that weighs 2 pounds less. We can, of course, add to that if it is desired, but many features not included in the requirements, such as a shower, really don't add a lot of weight anyway. In fact, both of the arrangement plans we have included on this web site do have showers. By locating the shower somewhat toward the center of the boat, impact on performance is reduced almost to zero.
Finally, we have provided for a sail stowage on deck. This is not just to keep the sails close at hand for quick access, it is also to keep them out of the below-deck area. By positioning this storage in the center of the boat, there is no impact on performance in a seaway except what little comes from a small reduction in stability. One of the J-Class uses their center cockpit for this purpose when racing, but while we have plenty of headroom in an M-boat, we don't have enough for a deep center cockpit, so a shallower storage locker is specifically permitted, and does not count against allowable cockpit space.
Try finding this feature in another class!
This is probably the most subjective element of the entire proposal to revive the M-Class. Yet this class has had an enduring quality rarely found, despite the fact that very few people who are drawn to these boats have even been aboard one. In fact, very few have even seen one except in pictures. To me the only plausible explanation is the beauty of the boats. They are, simply, majestic.
Figuring out how to preserve that quality, while modernizing the class, was a chore in revising the rule. The new form of the rule has a number of initially strange-sounding limitations intended to do just that. The boat in the drawings on this web site is just one form possible under this rule, but also one likely form -- the drawings are of one of the hulls developed for our own design program. So that boat is, hopefully, approximately what a modern M-boat really would look like. Developed as it was for a real design project, it also contains many features and proportions which exemplify qualities the rule wants to encourage, and so that boat ultimately became a "demonstration" boat for features within the measurement rule itself.
Yes, it is modernized from the truly classical form of the 1920s, but it is still basically a classical yacht. Of course I am prejudiced since I designed it, so you be the judge: Is this a beautiful and classical boat compared to most racing boats built today?
This is one we've all heard before, and of course there is no guarantee. But it is a very restrictive rule as revised, from the sharp limitations on keels, rudders, etc., to limits on length, and even limits on a number of shapes.
The idea is to make a class where -- once the designer gets the performance up to a certain level -- design advance is more likely to be a matter of trade-offs than across-the-board improvements, and where the more experimental elements permitted are also often the less expensive ones. Even still, there will be plenty of room for designers to come up with different hull shapes, as some of the concepts for my own design project have made clear to me. It is not too likely, though, that there will be major speed differences resulting from even the more extreme of these concepts, as most of the extreme ones don't perform very well.
The original Universal Rule permitted a far larger variety in hull forms and keels, but today I don't think that is appropriate. We have all seen, for instance, how a point-measurement rule can be exploited with odd shapes, as anyone remembering IOR can attest. That is one reason for all of the restrictions. The other is aesthetic; not everything that is fast is also beautiful, and so the New Universal Rule is a combination, protecting to a great extent the appearance and protecting totally the size and type of the boat, but still permitting a variety of hull forms. The New Universal Rule also permits far more experimentation in rigs and in gadgets, etc., than does, say, the International Rule. And that experimentation is a core tradition of the Universal Rule of Measurement.
I may be wrong about this, but I think the kind of boat has a lot to do with the kind of racing which results. We have all seen how certain types of boats tend to attract certain groups of people, for example, and it is people that determine the atmosphere of the racing.
So, while it is far from determinant, I feel that a modernized classical boat will tend to attract modern people with a respect for tradition as well, and with an ability to respect each other. These are traits which at times seem to me to be all too often missing in sports today. But these are the traits which will produce racing that is fun but also serious, with people who are at heart Ladies and Gentlemen. Again, no type of boat can guarantee that, but I think the kind of boat does have a role to play, and these boats will play it about as well as is possible.
When I was very young I used to ride along on deliveries my Dad did of racing boats from the South San Francisco Bay up to San Francisco. These were long one-day outings, and often ended up at the St. Francis Yacht Club, where my Mother would meet us and we would go somewhere for dinner. That was after we did one other thing: let me spend a while staring in awe at the enormous varnished mahogany sloop moored at the St. Francis.
I was probably about 5 years old, and I was totally overwhelmed by a boat named
Of course at the time I had no idea what an M-boat was, or even that this was an M-boat, but I couldn't imagine a bigger, or more beautiful, boat. In years to come I would see many larger boats, but I still haven't seen many as beautiful as M14.
Years went by and we moved to Southern California, where one year I found myself stuck with many potentially boring weekends while my parents worked to rebuild a boat at one of the yards in the Los Angeles area. Thankfully, I was wrong about it being boring.
About the second day we were working there, I arrived in the morning, walked out the rear of the shed, and saw a fabulous white sloop sitting there. It looked somehow familiar, even though I didn't think I had ever seen it.
I had heard of it though. Once called
Too young and small to sail on a boat that size, I became in effect the boat's "bat boy", spending every moment I could on board the boat at the dock, and dreaming of sailing a boat like that some day. I also got to watch probably the last of the M-Class racing. Frank Hooykaas arranged for me to get a good look at the start of one race between his
As years went on I got interested in other kinds of boats, but my love of the M-Class stayed deep inside.
That is the enduring quality of these boats, the same kind of quality that makes their pictures among the most requested from museums and archives.
I'd like to see that wonderful class racing again with modernized boats that retain the true basic qualities that made the first generation of M-boats so great.
-- Dave Fladlien